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The Godfather
Crime, Drama, Thriller
IMDB rating:
Francis Ford Coppola
Marlon Brando as Vito Corleone
Al Pacino as Don Michael Corleone
James Caan as Santino 'Sonny' Corleone
Richard S. Castellano as Young Peter Clemenza
Robert Duvall as Tom Hagen
Sterling Hayden as Capt. McCluskey
John Marley as Jack Woltz
Richard Conte as Don Emilio Barzini
Al Lettieri as Virgil 'The Turk' Sollozzo
Diane Keaton as Kay Adams Michelson
Abe Vigoda as Sal Tessio
Talia Shire as Connie Corleone Rizzi
Gianni Russo as Carlo Rizzi
John Cazale as Fredo Corleone
Storyline: When the aging head of a famous crime family decides to transfer his position to one of his subalterns, a series of unfortunate events start happening to the family, and a war begins between all the well-known families leading to insolence, deportation, murder and revenge, and ends with the favorable successor being finally chosen.
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The Godfather (1972)
Taking a best-selling novel of more drive than genius (Mario Puzo's The Godfather), about a subject of something less than common experience (the Mafia), involving an isolated portion of one very particular ethnic group (first-generation and second-generation Italian-Americans), Francis Ford Coppola has made one of the most brutal and moving chronicles of American life ever designed within the limits of popular entertainment.

The Godfather, which opened at five theaters here yesterday, is a superb Hollywood movie that was photographed mostly in New York (with locations in Las Vegas, Sicily, and Hollywood). It's the gangster melodrama come of age, truly sorrowful and truly exciting, without the false piety of the films that flourished forty years ago, scaring the delighted hell out of us while cautioning that crime doesn't (or, at least, shouldn't) pay.

It still doesn't, but the punishments suffered by the members of the Corleone Family aren't limited to sudden ambushes on street corners or to the more elaborately choreographed assassinations on thruways. They also include lifelong sentences of ostracism in terrible, bourgeois confinement, of money and power, but of not much more glory than can be obtained by the ability to purchase expensive bedroom suites, the kind that include everything from the rug on the floor to the pictures on the wall with, perhaps, a horrible satin bedspread thrown in.

Yet The Godfather is not quite that simple. It was Mr. Puzo's point, which has been made somehow more ambiguous and more interesting in the film, that the experience of the Corleone Family, as particular as it is, may be the mid-twentieth-century equivalent of the oil and lumber and railroad barons of nineteenth-century America. In the course of the ten years of intra-Mafia gang wars (1945-1955) dramatized by the film, the Corleones are, in fact, inching toward social and financial respectability.

For the Corleones, the land of opportunity is America the Ugly, in which almost everyone who is not Sicilian or, more narrowly, not a Corleone, is a potential enemy. Mr. Coppola captures this feeling of remoteness through the physical look of place and period, and through the narrative's point of view. The Godfather seems to take place entirely inside a huge, smoky, plastic dome, through which the Corleones see our real world only dimly.

Thus, at the crucial meeting of Mafia families, when the decision is made to take over the hard drug market, one old don argues in favor, saying he would keep the trade confined to blacks—"they are animals anyway."

This is all the more terrifying because, within their isolation, there is such a sense of love and honor, no matter how bizarre.

The film is affecting for many reasons, including the return of Marlon Brando, who has been away only in spirit, as Don Vito Corleone, the magnificent, shrewd old Corleone patriarch. It's not a large role, but he is the key to the film, and to the contributions of all of the other performers, so many actors that it is impossible to give everyone his due.

Some, however, must be cited, especially Al Pacino, as the college- educated son who takes over the family business and becomes, in the process, an actor worthy to have Brando as his father; as well as James Caan, Richard Castellano, Robert Duvall, Al Lettieri, Abe Vigoda, Gianni Russo, Al Martino, and Morgana King. Mr. Coppola has not denied the characters' Italian heritage (as can be gathered by a quick reading of the cast), and by emphasizing it, he has made a movie that transcends its immediate milieu and genre.

The Godfather plays havoc with the emotions as the sweet things of life—marriages, baptisms, family feasts—become an inextricable part of the background for explicitly depicted murders by shotgun, garrote, machine gun, and booby-trapped automobile. The film is about an empire run from a dark, suburban Tudor palace where people, in siege, eat out of cardboard containers while babies cry and get underfoot. It is also more than a little disturbing to realize that characters, who are so moving one minute, are likely, in the next scene, to be blowing out the brains of a competitor over a white tablecloth. It's nothing personal, just their way of doing business as usual.


Directed by Francis Ford Coppola; written by Mario Puzo and Mr. Coppola, based on the novel by Mr. Puzo; director of photography, Gordon Willis; edited by William Reynolds, Peter Zinner, Marc Laub, and Murray Solomon; music by Nino Rota; production designer, Dean Tavoularis; produced by Albert S. Ruddy; released by Paramount Pictures. Running time: 175 minutes.
Let's Get Down To The Facts
OK, I see that the movie has many naysayers. I was one of them when I saw the film in 1972, and I was only fifteen at the time. I could go on and on about the film's myriad failures. It is contrived, self-important, at times even poorly staged. Which brings me to my point. A lot of people seem to forget that Coppola did not win Best Director-- Bob Fosse (for "Cabaret') did, and deservedly so. He did a much better job. That is one of the eight Oscars that "Cabaret" won.The other seven just happen to be Art Direction, Cinematography, Sound, Editing,Original Score, Best Supporting Actor, and Best Actress. So when the time came to open the envelope and announce Best Picture, the Award goes instead to a film that, by that point, had won only two statues (for Actor and Adapted Screenplay). How does any movie win eight Academy Awards and fail to grab Best Picture? With that in mind, "The Godfather" is not merely arrogant film-making. Its history and legacy,both--just like its protagonists-- are just downright larcenous.
Everything you've ever heard is true...
THE GODFATHER is quite simply a masterful piece of film-making, an epic in the truest sense of the word and by far the finest gangster film ever shot. Made with finesse, style to spare and a director who elicits pitch-perfect performances from a talented cast, this is movie-making as it should be.

Yes, it's a very long film and yes, some sections are quite slow. Nevertheless, none of the film is any less than riveting. The story - of a father/son takeover in one of New York's major Italian Mafia families - is fairly straight forward, and yet Francis Ford Coppola turns it into something else so much more; a meditation on the human condition, perhaps.

Certainly this is a film that explores the darker side of humanity. Jealousy, betrayal, anger and revenge are all key themes here, and the film is inevitably punctuated by moments of graphic and shocking violence. And I'm glad Coppola chooses not to shy away from the said violence, which makes it all the more gritty and realistic when it does happen.

Marlon Brando takes the showrunner role here, the patriarch who's past his prime, but it's easy to spot the real star of the piece: Al Pacino, who burns up the screen with sheer ferocity. Robert Duvall is easy to miss in a quieter part, but watch out for James Caan whose volatile Sonny is one of the film's most engaging characters. Altogether this is a splendid and unforgettable piece of film-making, which inevitably spawned sequels and a whole gamut of similar gangster fare, but THE GODFATHER towers head and shoulders above them all.
What an outstanding cinema work
The first movie I've ever watched that left me with the feeling that I saw something bigger than just a movie. I remember it really well - I was 16, my parents were abroad and I watched it at home with a couple of good friends. When you remember the time and setting you watched a movie so well, it is because it really touched you and influenced you, and that's what I think that movie did to me. You really should watch it. It is an offer you can't refuse!
True masterpiece
This movie is strong, good script, great casting, excellent acting, and over the top directing. It is hard to fine a movie done this well, it is 29 years old and has aged well. Even if the viewer does not like mafia type of movies, he or she will watch the entire film, the audiences is glued to what will happen next as the film progresses. Its about, family, loyalty, greed, relationships, and real life. This is a great mix, and the artistic style make the film memorable.
An Iconic Film
Tell me a movie that is more famous than this. Tell me a movie that has had more parodies spinned off its storyline than this. Tell me one movie that has been as quoted as a much as this. The answer is you can't. No movie has had as much of an impact as The Godfather has had ever since it was released.

The acting was simply amazing, what else could you say. What could be more appealing to people(even today) than watching actors like Al Pacino, Marlon Brando, James Caan, Diane Keaton, Talia Shire and Robert Duvall. This is like heaven for someone who is a fan of movies. With this movie Brando was able to bring himself back into the limelight. His performance as the godfather alone is iconic. His character has been recreated so much in films that it has almost if it has not already become a cliché. His performance though was not a cliché. His performance was subtle and breathtaking. It was so genuine and realistic that it was not just probably but definitely more genuine than Marlon Brando himself. Al Pacino was perfect for this film as well. What a way to start up your career. His character was all about depth and he displayed it perfectly. He was able to display his own inner-battles in his mind as well as the battles he had with his family, friends and enemies. His character was more of a psychological character study than anything else to me. Robert Duvall to me was the glue to the movie. He added a different perspective to everything in just that he was not Italian yet having the respect of the mafia. His character is a man of high authority within the Corleone family who was listened to and insightful;. This was simply perfect giving the film great balance throughout. The rest of the cast was just icing on the cake.

The writing was phenomenal and breathtaking. As mentioned before there has been no movie quoted more than this. It is not even the quotes though that makes the writing in here so perfect. It is the symbolism and meaning that went into every scene. There are countless symbols, messages and lines in here that are so memorable yet it is as realistic as a movie could get.

The directing by Coppola was perfect as well. Not many movies can be 3 hours and yet maintain a good level of interest from the audience like The Godfather. Coppola deserves credit for this. The symbolism and messages that went into every scene also has to do with the directing not just the writing. The movie is so well edited and strung together that the only word that could come to my mind is perfection.

The cinematography and music were perfect. The score of this movie is one of the most memorable ever. If you were to hear it you could identify it right away. The cinematography was what actually really drove this movie. The Godfather seems to have this mystique to it, it gives you the feeling you are watching something truly remarkable.

The horse's head, the scene of Brando running with his groceries, the coffee shop scene, "I'll give him an offer he can't refuse" and countless other scenes and quotes from this movie have become a part of our culture. These scenes and lines have been recycled over and over again in comedies, commercials, etc. that it is impossible to avoid the greatness of The Godfather. The Godfather is like a disease once you see it you fall in love with it. I don't know if it is the greatest movie ever but it is definitely the most iconic film ever made.
The Geatest Movie Ever Made
You can't really criticize a film like "The Godfather", especially from a younger-type guy like me. Since its release in 1972, "The Godfather" has been highly praised by fans universally. It's extremely hard for a person who has never seen "The Godfather" without having high expectations because millions of people, maybe more have been talking about how wonderful it is. But as a film critic who has seen the movie several times and has read the novel that it was based on by Mario Puzo, this movie really deserves the credibility it gets. It really is that special. The film is a gripping epic that indulges the viewer with plenty of unsuspecting twists and a plot that works in a multitude of dimensions. The mobster's depicted here face many trials and tribulation that involve marriage, favours, family struggles, turncoats, tragic events, violence and rigor mortis.

Don Vito Corleone (Marlon Brando) is the head patriarch and kingpin of his esteemed enterprise is acquainted to at his daughter's wedding, which is a special occurrence in Italian tradition (Sicilian in particular) where the father of the bride is to refrain from offering the groom any special favours. His representatives showing their signs of respect towards the Don are featured in the opening scenes are told through their ways of personal address and greeting regimentations. The Don is to be treated with respect and dignity, a man who follows his own frame of mind to what is fair, and will likely deny any means of avenge. As an example, if anyone was to fondle with his daughter in any kind of way grounds for murder. It's not revenge, as long as your daughter's still breathing.

There are also numerous facets that indicate how not so respected the Don really is. Vito comes from the old school of Mafia, and can be labeled as a "Moustache" Pete. For one, unlike his adversaries, he refuses to get involved with drugs or smuggling for that matter. It this is much to the chagrin of other rival mob units in the state of New York. The violence is described disturbingly as nothing personal, it's just business. The philosophy behind this organized crime is chilling, but quite convincing. The violence is creepily accepted and sometimes happens all of the sudden. Suddenly, the Corleone enterprise falls on its foundations, and it's up to the next generation to restore the family so it could be ranked as the top of the best mob families.

The cast features a myriad of talented performers each playing their respective roles flawlessly. The top stars like Brando as Vito, James Caan as the hot-tempered Sonny, Al Pacino as the likable Michael, John Cazale as middle-sibling Fredo, Robert Duvall as mob attorney Tom Hagen, Richard Castellano as Clemenza, Abe Vigoda as Tessio and Diane Keaton as Kay Adams are what I may have expected what the characters from Puzo's book look like physically. Even the smaller roles deserve special credit. The performances were absolutely amazing. The characters in the film compliment the characters from the novel and it is mainly due to the physical structuring and the carefully planned interpretation.

The novel this movie was based on by Mario Puzo deserves praise in itself. Even though this movie was a fictional, there are a lot of authentic features that make every scene and every chapter to be real. I guess people when they think of mob bosses they visualize a supreme Don, sitting in his chair with a long facial expression contemplating with endless level-headedness and leadership. "The Godfather" is a marvel from both the film and the novel and it is hard to determine what medium is the better of the two.

If there is one thing that the book is better would be character development. Al Pacino's Michael Corleone is a more prominent character in the novel than in the movie. Michael's transformation in the movie is at times a bit rushed, while in the book it's handled more gradual. The other character Luca Brasi played by Lenny Montana was a more vital character in the novel, which while he was an ally to the Corleone clan, is marked as a threatening adversary with a dark and dreary secret. In the movie comes across as a big oaf, and not as scary. It's also nice that some of the smaller characters from the novel have engaging back stories like Captain McCluskey (Sterling Hayden). But that's good for the novel's sake, while the film would result in overdone detailing.

Overall, "The Godfather" is one of the greatest films ever made. Thanks mainly to the crew for creating a well-structured setting that compliments nicely to the characters, the script and most importantly, the direction of Francis Ford Coppola. Hats off to the cinematography from Gordon Willis which is backed nicely by the elegant score from Nino Rota and Carlo Savina. This film truly defines the words "required viewings."
the best movie I have ever seen
The remarkable thing about Mario Puzo's novel was the way it seemed to be told from the inside out; he didn't give us a world of international intrigue, but a private club as constricted as the seventh grade. Everybody knew everybody else and had a pretty shrewd hunch what they were up to.

The movie (based on a script labored over for some time by Puzo and then finally given form, I suspect, by director Francis Ford Coppola) gets the same feel. We tend to identify with Don Corleone's family not because we dig gang wars, but because we have been with them from the beginning, watching them wait for battle while sitting at the kitchen table and eating chow Min out of paper cartons.

"The Godfather" himself is not even the central character in the drama. That position goes to the youngest, brightest son, Michael, who understands the nature of his father's position while revising his old-fashioned ways. The Godfather's role in the family enterprise is described by his name; he stands outside the next generation which will carry on and, hopefully, angle the family into legitimate enterprises.

Those who have read the novel may be surprised to find Michael at the center of the movie, instead of Don Corleone. In fact, this is simply an economical way for Coppola to get at the heart of the Puzo story, which dealt with the transfer of power within the family. Marlon Brando, who plays the Godfather as a shrewd, unbreakable old man, actually has the character lead in the movie; Al Pacino, with a brilliantly developed performance as Michael, is the lead.

But Brando's performance is a skillful throwaway, even though it earned him an Academy Award for best actor. His voice is wheezy and whisper, and his physical movements deliberately lack precision; the effect is of a man so accustomed to power that he no longer needs to remind others. Brando does look the part of old Don Corleone, mostly because of acting and partly because of the makeup, although he seems to have stuffed a little too much cotton into his jowls, making his lower face immobile.

The rest of the actors supply one example after another of inspired casting. Although "The Godfather" is a long, minutely detailed movie of some three hours, there naturally isn't time to go into the backgrounds and identities of such characters as Clemenza, the family lieutenant; Jack Woltz, the movie czar; Luca Brasi, the loyal professional killer; McCluskey, the crooked cop; and the rest. Coppola and producer Al Ruddy skirt this problem with understated typecasting. As the Irish cop, for example, they simply slide in Sterling Hayden and let the character go about his business. Richard Castellano is an unshakable Clemenza. John Marley makes a perfectly hateful Hollywood mogul (and, yes, he still wakes up to find he'll have to cancel his day at the races).

The success of "The Godfather" as a novel was largely due to a series of unforgettable scenes. Puzo is a good storyteller, but no great shakes as a writer. The movie gives almost everything in the novel except the gynecological repair job. It doesn't miss a single killing; it opens with the wedding of Don Corleone's daughter (and attendant upstairs activity); and there are the right number of auto bombs, double crosses, and garroting.
The great Italian-American opera
It starts with a wedding. In this well-observed period set-piece there's a nuclear microcosm of the Corleone business - the family - their relationships, characters and roles. The family is both the backbone and burden of capo Vito Corleone's businesses, both licit and nefarious. They are support and affection in a world where betrayal and isolation are twin reapers, yet the sibling rivalry, disaffection and simple disinterest are equal and ever present threats. The Godfather is the story of the self-perpetuating tragedy of this dysfunctional bond of business and family; a grand study of ever-encroaching existential claustrophobia out and inside the home, teamed with dramatic, reactionary Italian hot-headedness.

Coppola tells this story with operatic intensity and sweep, conjuring dramatic tension, indelible cinematic images and earnest melodrama. He has one of the great casts - names that became - including Marlon Brando's greatest performance since his work for Elia Kazan in the 1950s. Nino Rota's score is not only celebrated by association but is a perfect compliment to the film, at once stark, woeful and, on blossoming, radiant. 9.5/10
Spoilers herein.

Building a life in film is not so much a matter of discovering the worthwhile films, but choosing which of those have the stuff worth building with. I have a clear understanding of what Scorsese is about, which I attribute to the Latin convention for storytelling. This convention is totally invested in characters, not situation or place or God help us, ideas. Scorsese's camera is attached to people, never place. His curiosity is always about people. This is a form of visual gossip that I eschew.

So it is with Coppola. But his two projects (the Godfather and Apocalypse journeys) have another merit in how they work with what came before. Apocalypse is far more interesting in this respect. But `Godfather' is very clever in how it places itself. Gangster pictures began as a matter of a pretend world, and became ever more so as the genre matured. Mobsters lived in a world not unlike that of the Roadrunner, always at a distance from reality, often winking at the audience.

Coppola took his focus on the human to this genre. The film itself is no masterpiece without this placement, but is great with it. We inherit all the machinery and momentum of the genre to place behind the characters. Brando understood this, and alone is able to effect the transferral. Pacino would go on to sledgehammer his roles, but is appropriately subdued here.

Ted's Evaluation -- 3 of 4: Worth watching.
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